FOREX-Euro hovers below recent peaks; FOMC minutes eyed

* Euro hovers below resistance at $1.4283 Nov peak

* Aussie dips on profit-taking

* RBA keeps interest rates unchaned as expected

By Natsuko Waki

TOKYO, April 5 (Reuters) – The euro hovered below a
five-month high against the dollar on Tuesday as investors
assessed whether it can make fresh gains given that market
players have already positioned themselves for a series of
interest rate hikes in the euro zone during 2011.

The European Central Bank is expected to raise rates by a
quarter point from a record low of 1 percent at a meeting on
Thursday to rein in inflationary pressures, with two more 25
basis point hikes priced in by year-end .

But the single currency has already risen more than 6
percent against the dollar and more than 10 percent versus the
yen this year, making investors reluctant to buy more ahead of
the meeting this week.

The euro’s rally has stalled right below resistance at its
November high of $1.4283. That level is also crucial as it
roughly coincides with trendline resistance drawn from the
euro’s record high set in July 2008.

“For the ECB, an April interest rate hike is a done deal and
one or two more hikes are priced in. It’s hard to see a positive
surprise from here,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief FX strategist
at Barclays Bank.

“Still, the euro zone would be the first to raise interest
rates, which supports the euro. Expectations for diversification
flows from higher oil prices are also positive. There is also a
risk that the Fed minutes may show a hawkish tone.”

The euro fell 0.1 percent from late U.S. trade on Monday to
$1.4203 , pulling away from a five-month high of $1.4269
hit on Monday on trading platform EBS.

A rise above its November peak of $1.4283 could open the way
to $1.4374, the 76.4 percent retracement of the euro’s slide
from November 2009 to June 2010. Support is seen at $1.4190,
with traders citing stops through to below $1.4150.

The euro edged up 0.2 percent against the yen to 119.77 yen
, close to its 11-month peak of 120.073 yen hit on
Monday.

The dollar rose 0.3 percent to 84.33 yen , edging
closer to a six-month peak of 84.735 yen set on Friday. A
200-day moving average at around 83.55 is now seen acting as
support.

FOCUS ON CENTRAL BANKS

The Australian dollar dipped 0.4 percent to $1.0323
, pressured by profit-taking in the wake of its rise to
a 29-year high of $1.0422 the previous day. There was talk of
both bids and stop-loss offers around $1.0300.

The Aussie dollar took in its stride the Reserve Bank of
Australia’s decision to keep interest rates unchanged at 4.75
percent as widely expected. [ID:nL3E7F40J2]

Some market players said, however, that position unwinding
could temper gains in the Aussie from here on.

“In the medium term, the Aussie remains supported, but there
is some room for position reduction. Rather than looking for a
run-up in Aussie/U.S. dollar, you would look at Aussie/yen and
perhaps Aussie/Swiss franc,” said Robert Ryan, senior G10
currency strategist for BNP Paribas in Singapore.

Later on Tuesday, focus will turn to the Fed minutes for
more hints on the Fed’s policy outlook.

Underscoring the market’s focus on Fed speakers, the dollar
edged higher against the yen and the euro earlier on Tuesday,
following comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben
Bernanke.

Currency traders, however, said that the move in the dollar
likely was due to the market having been short the dollar rather
than anything else.

Bernanke said a recent pick-up in U.S. inflation was driven
primarily by rising commodity prices globally, but added that
was unlikely to persist. [ID:nN04294041]

After a string of hawkish comments from Fed officials, some
U.S. central bankers have struck a more cautious tone.

On Monday, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said U.S.
inflation was likely to remain moderate and St.
Louis Fed Research Director Christopher Waller said the Fed was
likely to buy all the bonds it has said it would purchase by
June 30. [ID:nN04277975]

Charles Evans, president of the Chicago Federal Reserve
Bank, told CNBC on Monday the Fed’s programme is most likely an
“adequate” size. [ID:nWEN0460]

“It is becoming increasingly evident (there is) a divergence
in opinions among Fed members. These different opinions among
Fed members may seep into the FOMC minutes later today,” BNP
Paribas said in a note to clients.

“This may be interpreted as hawkish, but we expect the Fed
to stand pat especially since we expect incoming data through Q2
to be on the weaker side.”

(Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in Singapore and
Richard Leong in Hong Kong; Editing by Ramya Venugopal)

FOREX-Euro hovers below recent peaks; FOMC minutes eyed